In a time dominated by people being tethered to mobile gadgets, there's no shortage of reaction puzzle games. The fast paced, play-any-time nature of the genre makes it ideal for short spurts of play sprinkled throughout the day, and that's what Squares by LEAP Game Studios is – a minimalistic puzzler that focuses more on testing your reaction time rather than testing your problem solving skills. It's a great time killer if you're not into deeper experiences on your PlayStation Vita.
The objective of each level is to tap away in an attempt to turn every blue square grey, avoid the red, and do so before the ever speeding timer decides that you're out of time – simple and true to the minimalistic promise of the genre. On paper, everything is great – even the catchy, almost techno tunes and the red timer bar that races to the left of the screen can turn your experience with the title into a rhythmic trance.
As you progress through the 91 included levels, more mechanics are introduced to up the ante. You'll need to swipe squares, tilt the Vita, and even pinch the back touchpad and front screen to rid the level of those blue squares that you scorn so much. The real puzzle here is co-ordinating multiple actions that are required in a certain order.
Each level will also provide an opportunity to earn three stars, depending on your performance. The further you delve into the level select, the more stars that you'll need to have stashed in order to play the more difficult stages. This gives you plenty of incentive to return in an attempt to best yourself.
Again, all of this sounds great on paper when you consider what it's trying to accomplish, but issues arise as you proceed further down the level list. The amount of time allotted never seems like enough for the more complex, multi-faceted stage designs. The timer will usually only give you a few seconds – five to ten max depending on the size of it – and not only do you need to have incredibly quick fingers, but you also need to somehow decipher the issue at hand under the constant pressure. As such, things quickly turn into a trial and error process. At best, you'll have to attempt to memorize the sequence and keep trying to pummel through the level, which means that it never really has you solving tough puzzles, thus eliminating the satisfaction that comes with outsmarting the game.
If the 91 gruelling puzzles aren't enough for you, building your own concoction is simple enough with the stage creator that's included. Simply add the squares, the sequence that they'll appear in, and you're done. Leaderboards are also included in case you want to compete with friends, and together, they're two nice additional touches that follow the simplistic design seen in the rest of the game.
Squares is a nice time killer that uses the available hardware features really well, but there just isn't enough problem solving involved for it to be considered a great puzzle game. With too much of a focus on testing your reflexes, this is a Vita title that's best enjoyed in short bursts.